How To's & GuidesTech Tip on a Tuesday - TiVo still has...

Tech Tip on a Tuesday – TiVo still has Copy Protection.


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If you thought TiVo might be an alternative for recording TV and cable to your WHS you may want to take a few minutes and read this.

©1998-2010 TiVo Inc. All rights reserved. TiVo and the TiVo logo are registered trademarks of TiVo Inc. and its subsidiaries worldwide.

Understanding Copy Protection – Why?

The main “thing” to understand is that the service provider (Charter in my case) is the determining factor in selecting which shows have what is called Copy Protection. Some of you may not be aware of how this affects you.

If you use an antenna and TV tuner or a product like the HDHomeRun with your PC, then anything you record (over the air – OTA like VHF and UHF) is Copy Freely, by definition. Copy Freely is free programming you can move and copy wherever you want.  If you have a Windows Home Server you can even tell your Windows Media Center PC to move those OTA TV shows to the WHS. Once those shows are on the WHS you can then watch them from ANY PC with Windows Media Center on your network. It works the way God and Bill planned it to work.


If you have cable service and “premium channels” you need a CableCARD and a CableCARD compatible tuner to watch and record shows through Windows Media Center. The original ATI CableCARD tuner, the new Ceton card, the HDHomeRun CableCARD tuner and TiVo all work and function the same way. All these devices take their Copy Control Information (CCI) from the service provider via your CableCARD. This means that no matter which CableCARD device you use, you are pretty much stuck watching it on the PC that recorded it. If you already have a set-top-box (STB) or cable DVR, which already has a built-in CableCARD and Tuning Adapter, then you do not see any of these background tags since the programming never leaves the STB. Things only get Copy Protected once you record them with a PC or TiVo.

From Wiki at

The two most popular flags used are Copy Freely and Copy Once. Copy Freely is essentially no flag at all, while Copy Once means that a DVR can make one copy, but no more copies can be made. The best examples of these in use are in regards to the TiVo HD and Windows Media Center. A show that is marked Copy Once can not be transferred to another TiVo via the Multi-Room Viewing feature and can not be transferred to the computer via TiVoToGo. In regards to Windows Media Center, shows marked Copy Once can only be played on the same PC in which they were recorded and the directly connected to an Extenders for Media Center like the Xbox 360 — ATI Digital Cable Tuner must be running firmware 1.19.12 or Copy Freely is treated like Copy Once.

So which channels are “Copy Freely” and which are “Copy Protected”? As a general rule of thumb anything over the air (OTA) is usually Copy Freely while channels like HBO, Discovery, HDNet, SyFy are Copy Protected. Again, your service provider makes the determination so you just have to deal with how they tag each show. Yes, Copy Protection is not just by channel, it can be by show too!

Do not be frustrated with your equipment as the PC, tuners and network all take their orders from the CableCARD!

For more information see the review of the ATI CableCARD tuner I wrote last year at:

TiVo and Copy Protection – What does this mean?

TiVo works very similar to a HTPC or Media Center PC. With TiVo you also need the CableCARD in the back of the TiVo and (possibly) a Tuning Adapter. Based on the Copy Protection as described above, your TiVo, while it functions perfectly as a set-top-box, will not give you any advantage over a CableCARD tuner connected to your PC.

So you have to pay $299 for the base TiVo unit and $12.95 per month for the TiVo service. You also need to have an existing cable connection, Tuning Adapter and a CableCARD which ranges from $2-$5 per month. In addition, if you want to record to a PC you have to pay $24.95 for the software to convert the “non-Copy Protected” files to another PC a portable format. Fortunately for HP users the WHS Add-In is free!

Here is some of the fine print:

Files with digital rights management (DRM) or other copy protection are not supported.

* CableCARD required for receipt of digital cable service. Additional fees may apply from your cable provider.

** Broadband Internet connection required for video downloads. Additional third-party fees may apply.

† TiVo Desktop or TiVo Desktop Plus required. TiVo Desktop Plus sold separately.

I just verified on the TiVo site that anything with “Copy Protection” (Charter puts it on almost every channel) will not be shared with PCs connected to TiVo. This is not really a shocker but I did have to look around to find it. The TiVo will work similar to my ATI CableCARD tuner in that only the basic OTA network stations will be free from Copy Protection. Any other channels, like SyFy, HDNet, HBO etc. will not be able to be shared, viewable on other PCs or even encoded for portable devices.

Directly from the TiVo website I found:

Not all programs may be transferred using the Multi-Room Viewing or TiVoToGo features due to the use of copy protection mechanisms permitted under the FCC’s encoding rules. Some shows cannot be transferred due to the copy protection assigned them by the program provider. These shows usually are marked with a red circle-slash icon. (47 C.F.R. 76.1904)

Get used to the Red Circles. They are everywhere!

I am not bashing TiVo, but they do not leave me a lot to work with here. So ok, the TiVo has some good scheduling options but not much more than Windows Media Center considering the price. If there is some great part of TiVo I left out I would be glad to hear about it!

I am heading to my sisters soon to install the HP Add-In on her LX195 and see if her TiVo will record to it. If it does I will try the playback on the Dell Zino I bought her. I will write an article next month on that topic!

The TiVo Add-In only seems to be for the 3.0 Software!


©1998-2010 TiVo Inc. All rights reserved. TiVo and the TiVo logo are registered trademarks of TiVo Inc. and its subsidiaries worldwide.

Timothy Daleo
Timothy Daleo is a Project Resource Analyst and Oracle Applications Trainer in Pasadena, California. In addition to financial analysis, Tim has been developing training materials since 2003 and supporting direct projects through various auxiliary databases since 2005.


  1. Tim – Your post is exactly the same info that I discovered when I was looking at the new add-in. While it looks to be a nice tool for WHS users and TiVo owners it is severely limited by the copyright protection. BTW – you don't have to pay $24.95 to transfer from the TiVo to a desktop PC. You can do that on non-copyright protected shows using TiVo Desktop. If you want to convert the recording to another format for playback on say and Ipod or Zune, then you pay for the EXTRA.

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